Seal stampede after selfie-obsessed tourists disturb Scottish colony

Some visitors to Forvie National Nature Reserve near Newburgh, Fife, have been ignoring signs informing them and disturbing seals as they lay on the beach out of the sea.  Picture: SWNS
Some visitors to Forvie National Nature Reserve near Newburgh, Fife, have been ignoring signs informing them and disturbing seals as they lay on the beach out of the sea. Picture: SWNS
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Selfie-obsessed tourists disturbed a colony of seals, causing a stampede.

More than 1,000 grey seals live a peaceful life at Forvie National Nature Reserve near Newburgh, Fife.

But despite warning signs which tell visitors it is an offence to harass the seals, some persist in doing so.

This year alone, some 13 stampedes have been caused - with four caught on camera by action group Ythan Seal Watch.

Volunteer Lee Watson said: “Some photographers cause a stampede to get a good picture.There’s a mixture of people that come here.

“But visitors with smartphones are playing a big part, also photographers and dog walkers.

“It’s really frustrating, I would get it if this was a public beach but it’s not, it’s a nature reserve.

“Some people try and get selfies and stuff.

“We are doing everything we can but some of the other organisations need to help us too.

“Social media is causing problems, we are getting many visitors from it but at the at the same time, people are annoying the seals.

“It’s a double-edged sword.”

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He added: “Stampedes are the most concerning thing to result from a visitor disturbing the seals on Forvie.”

Lee wants Police Scotland to take action against thoughtless visitors who ‘harass’ the seals - which are legally protected.

“We also believe that as the visitors have ignored legal warning signs on Forvie that they should be dealt with either by the police or by Marine Scotland’s compliance team,” he said.

In May 2017, the Scottish Government moved to legally protect seals from intentional and reckless harassment so they can rest, moult and breed undisturbed.

The community group tries to prevent disturbance to seals but they are becoming “frustrated” with members of the public who are ignoring the warning signs.

Lee, 36, added: “Our season runs from October to April of the following year.

“This is a time when the seals on the reserve are unsupervised and the fence that protects the bird breeding colony is not up to stop access to the area at the end of the reserve.

“We look for behaviours from visitors that are listed in Marine Scotland’s harassment guide, along with the fact that the visitors have ignored all the advice asking them not to view the seals from the reserve.

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“They are asked to view the seals from Newburgh on the opposite side of the river.

“Visitors don’t disturb the seals by viewing them from Newburgh beach where we have taken the footage from.”